Posts tagged ‘consulting’

Still Going Strong at Virginia DMV

I originally thought I was in for 3 to 6 months. It has now been one year and I have been approved for a one year extension. Here is a secret for all you consultants out there. Empower your customers! Emphasize the value that they bring to their own projects. Teach them how to do without you. My experience tells me that you may find that the environment you help create gives you more opportunity in the long run. Not less. My point — you do not have to be come indispensable (“all contractors are dispensable”). You just have to add more value than you cost. Multiplying the value of others is a good way to do that.

Mentoring, Consulting, or Outsourcing?

What is the difference, if any? I would contend that there are differences. Simple outsourcing occurs when a company or government agency wants something done that it either does not want to do itself, or can get done at less cost from outside. Consultants, on the other hand, are normally hired to do a task cannot be done with in-house resources. As such, they are generally fairly expensive. Usually, consultants are hired to get an outside view, to get objective recommendations, or to do a one-time task that requires special expertise. In such cases they are a good use of resources.

There is a downside however. When a consultant is hired to do perform a repetitive task, and he simply performs that task, again and again, he is no longer a consultant. He has become a high-priced outsource contractor. It is also possible that he makes his contribution indispensable to mission performance. Now he is not only high-priced, but a risk. From an organizational viewpoint, any indispensability is risky. Indispensable consultants or consulting companies are even more so.

So, what do you do when there is a long term task that must be done, but cannot be done with in-house resources. One way to handle the situation is to grow some in-house resources. You can send folks to training. Sometimes, however, training needs follow-up, reinforcement, and a bit of friendly supervision. This kind of activity is known as mentoring. Mentoring can be done in-house if there are sufficient resources. Often, however, in-house mentoring is a one-on-one activity and carries intimation of favoritism because of hierarchical relationships between mentor and protege. For less direct mentoring activity, some large companies have large separate mentoring/training divisions. This works well where tasks an procedures are well-defined and folks simply need non-threatening help to understand their work environment.

So, what about something new? You want to follow a new and exciting way for doing something. You want to adopt a cutting edge technology or methodology. If you can find the right person, a professional mentor might be the right answer. A good mentor is less concerned with his accomplishments than those of the folks he is helping. A good mentor is helpful, but no overly directive. It is actually useful to allow proteges to fail on occasion. The learning is valuable. A mentor never competes with his proteges for favor or glory. His value is in multiplying their capability. It is not in his personal glory.  A mentor has the goal of working himself out of a job, as he makes everyone else more productive. A good mentor does not allow himself to be indispensable in the long term. His goal must be to achieve the exact opposite result.

This goal seems to go against human nature. Maybe that is why really good professional mentors are not easy to find (and why good ones are actually in demand because of their scarcity). In order to avoid the human tendencies that lessen the value of my mentoring activity, I have developed a creed. I try to follow Grandpa’s Creed in all my work with the Virginia DMV and with other consulting clients where mentoring comes into play. In general, I would say it works. I am certainly better for it.